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Book Review: The Godfather by Mario Puzo

Major Characters: Don Vito Corleone, Santino (Sonny) Corleone, Michael Corleone, Frederico (Fredo) Corleone, Constanzia (Connie) Corleone, Thomas (Tom) Hagen, Johnny Fontane, Peter (Pete) Clemenza, Salvatore (Sal) Tessio. 

The Godfather, written by Mario Puzo, is a classic novel that has captivated readers since its release in 1969. It is a story about the Corleone family, a powerful mafia clan in New York City, and their struggles to maintain control over their criminal empire.

One of the most notable aspects of The Godfather is character development. Puzo creates a cast of characters who are complex and nuanced, and readers are drawn into their worlds of loyalty, honor, and betrayal. The protagonist, Vito Corleone, is a particularly compelling character, who is both ruthless and sympathetic.

The Godfather is a legendary story about criminal activities and deceit that gained worldwide recognition. A modern masterpiece, The Godfather by Mario Puzo is also the intimate story of the Corleone family, at once drawn together and ripped apart by its unique position at the core of the American Mafia. Still shocking more than fifty years after it was first published, this compelling tale of blackmail, murder, and family values is a true classic.

The alluring nature of authority, the dangers of avarice, and the commitment to kinship are the concepts that have struck a chord with countless readers across the globe and established The Godfather as the ultimate book about the aggressive underworld that, full of mystery and dispute, continues to be firmly ingrained in our shared awareness.

Vito Corleone grew up in Sicily. His father died and he emigrated to the United States at the age of nine and settled in New York City's Little Italy. He worked in various odd jobs before joining the criminal underworld as a young adult. 

During Prohibition, Vito saw an opportunity to make a fortune in bootlegging, and he quickly rose through the ranks of the mafia to become a powerful don. They call Vito the Don, or the Godfather. If you need true help, where do you go? Nothing exists outside the laws of our land. Except for the law of the Godfather, and his law of power, money, and business.

Vito Corleone established himself as a shrewd businessman, but he also had a strong sense of loyalty to his family and friends. Vito's criminal empire was built on a code of honor, which he believed was essential to maintaining order and stability in the underworld. He became known as a fair and just leader, who would only resort to violence as a last resort.

The Italian-American boss Vito Corleone, during the celebrations for his daughter's wedding, agrees to meet some Italian emigrants that ask for his help. Thus begins Mario Puzo's masterpiece. With a simple and straightforward style, Puzo manages to masterfully describe a series of intricate and temporally shifted events, involving the reader and maintaining high levels of suspense. It comes out the best cross-section of the Italian-American subculture never done before, and probably never equaled.

"The Godfather," is the account of the rise and fall and rise of the Corleone Empire, ruled by the godfather himself, Don Vito Corleone. Puzo performs a neat trick, he makes Don Vito a sympathetic and rather appealing character. Without sugarcoating Don Vito's sins, Puzo makes the man believable and, importantly, understandable.

Don Vito's supporting cast includes his three sons, Santino, who is too tough, Frederico, who is too weak, and Michael, who is, by Don's standards, just right. Tom Hagen, Don's Irish- German-American counselor, weaves in and out of the story, and so does Don's wayward godson, Johnny Fontane, a crooner whose voice goes sour, whose career nose-dives after a disastrous show-biz marriage and whose career revives after he plays a dramatic role in a movie about soldiers.

Don Vito Corleone loves his sons. They mean the essence of life to him. Vito grows old. He gets shot several times and lands in a hospital bed. The family strives to keep and protect in this war of mob families. Sonny Corleone, the Godfather’s eldest son takes over the interim. Will they protect themselves from losses? Will they further the family business in the time of testing and vulnerability? The plot begins here and leads to blood, deception, and the smell of gun smoke trailing a highway for the Angel of Death.

Don Vito Corleone was a man to whom everybody came for help, never were they disappointed. He made no empty promises, nor the craven excuse that his hands were tied by more powerful forces in the world than himself. It was not necessary that he be your friend, it was not even important that you had no means with which to repay him. Only one thing was required. That you, yourself, proclaim your friendship. And then, no matter how poor or powerless the supplicant, Don Corleone would take that man’s trouble to his heart. 

“Friendship is everything. Friendship is more than talent. It is more than the government. It is almost equal to family. Never forget that. If you had built up a wall of friendships you wouldn’t have to ask me to help.”

Don Corleone always emphasizes the importance of investing time and effort into building meaningful relationships with others and highlights the benefits of having a strong support system.

Much of the book explains the godfather's mindset, reasoning, philosophies, and strict sense of his version of honor.

"Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment."

It emphasizes the importance of maintaining objectivity and not letting emotions cloud one's judgment.

“Revenge is a dish that tastes best when served cold.”

The struggle between father and son and setting a person’s path is an age-old story always enjoyed as it does affect people even today and always will.

“He smelled the garden, the yellow shield of light smote his eyes, and he whispered, "Life is so beautiful."

Yes, he thought, if I can die saying, "Life is so beautiful," then nothing else is important.”

The wisdom of Don Vito Corleone is disarming, it arouses feelings of respect also in the readers, making the godfather one of the most charismatic characters ever.

“Tom, don't let anybody kid you. It's all personal, every bit of business. Every piece of shit every man has to eat every day of his life is personal. They call it business. OK. But it's personal as hell. Do you know where I learned that from? The Don. My old man. The Godfather. If a bolt of lightning hit a friend of his the old man would take it personally. He took my going into the Marines personally. That's what makes him great. The Great Don. He takes everything personally Like God. He knows every feather that falls from the tail of a sparrow or however the hell it goes? Right? And you know something? Accidents don't happen to people who take accidents as a personal insult.”

One of the most impressive aspects of the book is the way Puzo is able to create sympathy for his characters, despite the fact that they are involved in illegal activities. Through his writing, he is able to show the human side of these characters, their struggles, and their desires, which makes them feel more like real people than simply archetypes of organized crime.

Ayrin Saleha Ria works at Future Startup as a full-time Research Associate. She has a background in Applied Sociology. Before joining the FS team, she worked and volunteered with a number of social organizations. As someone who comes from a social science background, she takes a deep interest in research around important social-economic challenges in our society. A voracious reader, Ayrin is passionate about working for the betterment of society, takes a deep interest in human society and behavioral science, and loves books.

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